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794 Documents 

travellers as well those that atempt to settle as those that pas through 
aspicily 11 those that Enquire the way to fains and if the Do not support 
a reasonable carecter to take them Back the way the Come to the first 
justice for furder Examination acording to Law and hinder if possi- 
ble any more from setling here in open violation of the Law of the 
united States 

Janeary 1799 [1800] Whareas the Indian line was run above our settle- 
ment By Captain Butler Last Summer we have some hope that the Land 
is purchesed on which we have setled therefore we think it good to 
petition to Congress to annex us to some one state and as we are in the 
antient Limits of South Carolina we wish to be Reseated 12 Back to that 
state. 

October 1802 Whareas we find that Congress hes seaded us to the 
State of Geaorgia therefore we think it good to petition the Generel 
Assembly of this State to Do to and for us as in their Wisdom think 
Best. 

Richard Williamson Mathew Patterson 

Ruben Allen Benjamin Olliver 

William Allen peter Oens 

George Welleimson? John pendergrass 

Samuel deves Son William Son George Glesnar 
James Williamson 
James Allene 
James Allen 
Robert Lee 
Joseph Beezley 
[Addressed:] State of Geaorgia 

Jeffeson County Lewesvilly 13 

To his Excellency the Governor John Milledge. 



3. The First American Discoveries in the Antarctic, 18 19. 

The South Shetland islands were first discovered by Dirk Ger- 
ritsz in 1598. In 18 19 they were rediscovered by an Englishman, 
William Smith of Blyth. On February 19 and 20, while sailing 
from Montevideo to Valparaiso, he saw land there. On October 15 
of the same year, while again sailing from Montevideo to Valpa- 
raiso, he saw the land in lat. 62 30' S., long. 6o° W-, and landed 
a party which planted the Union jack and took possession for Great 
Britain. 1 For an independent discovery by Americans a few months 
later, the only authority hitherto seems to have been Edmund Fan- 
ning, who in his Voyages around the World (New York, 1833) 2 
states that the Hersilia of Stonington, Connecticut, Captain James 
P. Sheffield, visited the islands in February, 1820, and began there 

11 Especially. 

12 Receded or retroceded. 

13 Louisville in Jefferson County was then the capital of Georgia. 

1 The authoritative account is in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, III. 
367-380. 

2 P. 430. 



First American Discoveries in the Antarctic 795 

the American seal-fisheries which proved so immensely profitable 
but resulted early in the extermination of the seals. The follow- 
ing letters, to which the managing editor's attention was directed 
by Professor James M. Callahan, cast further light on the Amer- 
ican discovery. 

James Byers of New York, the writer of the first letter here 
printed, was a ship-owner, originally of Springfield, Massachusetts. 3 
His letter is preserved in the Department of State at Washington, 
Bureau of Indexes and Archives, in Miscellaneous Letters, vol. 77. 
General Daniel Parker, to whom it was addressed, was at the time 
adjutant-general and inspector-general of the United States army. 
The enclosed letter of Captain Fanning is not found. Other letters 
of Mr. Byers, near by in the same volume, show that the Stoning- 
ton vessel reached the islands in December; 1819, coming from the 
Atlantic Ocean and South Georgia, so that knowledge of Smith's 
discovery is out of the question, and the American discovery rested, 
as Fanning states, on a reading of Dirk Gerritsz. These letters 
also show that Byers had promptly sent other vessels, which he 
hoped would arrive at these rich hunting-grounds in October, 1820. 

The second letter, written by Secretary Adams to President 
Monroe, then at his country estate in Virginia, is found in its chro- 
nological place among the Monroe Papers at the Library of Con- 
gress. The letter of Byers which was enclosed in it is probably not 
the same as that here given, and seems not to be extant. The same 
is true of Jeremy Robinson's letter of November 15, 1819, from 
Valparaiso, though it is noted as having been received at the Depart- 
ment on August 19, 1820. Its absence is to be the more regretted, 
if it contained any information obtained from officers or crew of 
Captain William Smith's ship, which made its second arrival at 
Valparaiso in November. 4 A letter from Robinson to Dr. Samuel 
L. Mitchell of New York, dated Valparaiso, January 23, 1820, tell- 
ing of Smith's discovery in some detail, is printed in Niles's Reg- 
ister, XIX. 43. Niles, in the heading, says of the new island or 
continent, " It is said, however, to have been discovered some years 
since by some American whalers, and the knowledge concealed for 
mercantile purposes ". There are further references to the matter 
at pp. 65 and 112 of the same volume. 

President Monroe's reply to Adams, dated Highland, September 
1, 1820, is found among the papers of John Quincy Adams. The 
pertinent paragraph, printed below, is contributed through the kind- 
ness of Mr. Charles Francis Adams and Mr. Worthington C. Ford. 

3 Fanning, p. 419. 

'Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, III. 373. 



796 Documents 

Its phrases would lead one to expect that the missing letter of Rob- 
inson might be found in the archives of the Navy Department. But 
a search kindly ordered by the chief of those archives, Mr. Charles 
W. Stewart, has brought to light no such letter. 

1. James Byers to General Parker. 

New York 25 Aug' 1820. 
Dear Sir, 

I have just rec 4 your fav r and can assure you it affords me great 
pleasure to learn that Gov' is disposed to give the subject of the new 
Discovery a serious investigation. It is quite fashionable you know, 
among a certain class of citizens, to accuse our Administration of luke- 
warmness in regard to the Mercantile interest. But not being of that 
number, I wrote you as I did, in great confidence that Gov 4 would be 
disposed to grant all proper protection. Since the receipt of your Letter, 
I have learned that the Secretary of the Navy is absent from the City 
on a visit to the North. I am sorry I could not see him, for I am quite 
confident I could satisfy him that the object is worthy the attention of 
Gov*. 

The first information I ever received respecting the new Discovery 
was from a Capt Sheffield who arrived at Stoneington last spring, from 
the new Islands. As soon as he reached this Country he wrote me 
a Letter informing me of his success and offering to out again in my 
employ. He had formerly been in my service and I knew him to be 
worthy of all confidence. In order to obtain correct information, I 
authorized Mr. Walter Nexsen, a respectable Mercht and also a partner 
in my Sealing enterprises, to go to Stonington and have an interview 
with Capt. S. Mr. Nexsen obtained the following particulars, from his 
Log Book. 

The great New Island or Continent is in Lat. 61: 10 S., Long. 57: 
15 W. Coasted about 50 Miles — saw no end South W. Returned to what 
he thought the S. W. end, and came to Anchor between a number of 
Islands, a short distance from the Mainland. He found pretty good 
Anchorage in 15 Fathom Water. On one of these Islands he took 
9,000 fur Seal in 15 days. He had no more Salt or could [have] 
killed any number. He says he saw at one view 300,000 Seal. He 
thinks the Country is uninhabited and destitute of Wood. Water plenty 
and good. The Land runs about N° East and S' West. In additional 
to the above, I have learned from other sources of the existence of these 
Islands, and all nearly agree in L* and Long. Capt Fanning late of the 
Spartan mentions the subject in the Letter enclosed. It is considered 
by everyone that the fact is fully established and it would afford great 
satisfaction to every American if our Government was the first to sur- 
vey and name the new World. I should at first have written Mr. Adams 
on this subject, but being unknown to him I thought it best to make the 
Communication through you, thinking, that your very respectable sta- 
tion under Government would perhaps arrest the attention of the proper 
Dept. with greater effect than any representation from an unknown 
individual. 

I am with respect 

Sir your Ob' 

St 
James Byers. 



First American Discoveries in the Antarctic 797 

P. S. The British first took possession of South Georgia Island, from 
which they have taken great numbers of Seal and much Sea Eliphiant 
Oil. They would never suffer Americans to Seal there, as they claim 
the Islands as belonging to Great Britain. 
[Addressed:] General Parker, Washington. 



11. J. Q. Adams to Monroe. 

Washington 26 Augt. 1820. 
Dear Sir, 

The enclosed Letter, from J. Byers of New York to General Parker 
was delivered to me by that officer and relates to a subject of very con- 
siderable importance. To give you a more perfect understanding of 
its contents I enclose with it a Letter of 15. November 1819 from Jeremy 
Robinson of Valparaiso. General Parker says that more than twenty 
Vessels have been fitted out from New York, and have sailed or are 
about to sail upon Sealing and Whaling Voyages to this newly dis- 
covered Island or Continent. Byers says they will be on the spot before 
the English, but whether they can reach Latitude 61. 40. South in Octo- 
ber which answers to our April is to be seen. I much doubt it. 

If they do, and the English adventurers come there afterwards, we 
shall hear more of it. Nootka Sound, Falkland Island questions may be 
expected. I beg leave to recommend the affair to your particular con- 
sideration. The British Government just now have their hands so full 
of Coronations and Adulteries, Liturgy, prayers and Italian Sopranos, 
Bergamis and Pergamis, High Treasons and Petty Treasons, Pains, Pen- 
alties and Paupers, 5 that they will seize the first opportunity they can to 
shake them all off, and if they can make a question of national honour 
about a foot-hold in Latitude 61. 40. upon something between Rock and 
Ice-berg, as this discovery must be, and especially a question with us, 
they will not let it escape them. 

I desired General Parker to advise Mr. Byers to see the Secretary of 
the Navy, and confer with him about this project of a settlement and 
sending a Frigate to take possession. I hope this plan will meet your 
approbation. There can be no doubt of the right, and the Settlement 
is a very good expedient for protecting the real objects, to catch Seals 
and Whales. The idea too of having a grave controversy with Lord 
Castlereagh, about an Island Latitude 61. 40. South, is quite fascinating. 

I send also another Letter from Jeremy Robinson of 17. January 
1820, very long and interesting. This man has given us so much valu- 
able information, and sees things with so much more impartiality, and 
therefore accuracy, than some others who have been there, that I 
almost wish you would forget his indiscretion by which he forfeited the 
commission he had obtained, and restore him to some subordinate agency. 
I shall have a translation made of the Long Letter from the Director 
O'Higgins to you which was forwarded through Robinson, and to which 
I suppose the Director will expect an answer, verbal or written. 
With perfect Respect, I remain, Dear Sir, 

faithfully yours 
John Quincy Adams. 

s Allusions to the trial of Queen Caroline, etc. 



798 Documents 

in. President Monroe to Secretary Adams (Extract). 

September 1, 1820. 

The discovery of land in the Pacific, of great extent, is an important 
event, and there are strong reasons in favor of your suggestion to aim 
at the occupancy on our part. Communicate the documents to the 
Secretary of the Navy, and suggest the motive, asking how far it 
would be practicable to send a frigate there, and thence to strengthen 
our force along the American coast. I shall also write him on the 
subject. . . .